Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Elderly Aunt Leaves Legacy Without Even Realizing It

Dear Tazi:

You remind me so much of my beloved Spats, except that your paws are all black and Spats has the most adorable white booties on his paws! I am writing to you today to ask your advice on a question I have regarding inheritance.

I am a 96 year old lady, who never married and has no children of my own; just several nephews and nieces, as well as grand-nephews and nieces, and even one great-grand nephew! Before my siblings all passed (I am the youngest of 11!), my nephews and nieces would visit me regularly with their children in tow. As the years passed on, so did my siblings and the visits from their children became fewer and far between until they completely stopped about 10 years ago.

A few months ago, my youngest grand-nephew, "Carl" started college. For his American History class, he had to interview someone who has lived through important moments in American history. I was quite flattered when he chose me because, as he said, "Aunty Nana, you have lived through so much history!" I suppose that was a polite way of saying I am old, but I also suppose it is true!

As a part of his project, Carl stopped by to visit me on several occasions to ask me questions about my memories of important events in U.S. History - the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, the civil rights movement of the 1960's, and the like. I have truly enjoyed Carl's visits, and I think he enjoyed them, too, because he has continued to visit with me on a weekly basis; even though his project is now complete.

Tazi-Kat, until Carl started visiting me, I thought I had nobody to whom I could bequeath my sizeable estate when I pass. I was going to leave everything in trust for Spats, and then to charity when he passed; but now I am considering re-writing my will and, after making financial accommodations for Spats and a donation to my local ASPCA, leaving the remainder of my estate to Carl. My concern is that Carl is still young, and I fear his interest in spending time with me will be fleeting. I do not wish to bribe him into spending time with me, but I do not wish to leave an inheritance to one who deserts me in my old age. It is for this reason that I am not leaving anything to my nephews or nieces.

I am also concerned that if I do leave everything to Carl, he will see it as a door to Easy Street and leave school before he completes his education. His goal is to be a History teacher, like I was before I retired. I know how difficult it is to live on a teacher's salary - my fortune comes from investing well - so I know that an inheritance will be helpful to Carl should he continue on this path. My Spats loves him, and animals are a good judge of character, plus he seems like such a good, sincere young man. He introduced me to the Facebook that all of his cousins use to keep in touch with each other, and shows me the pictures they post of themselves so I may see what is going on with them. It was on the Facebook that I saw your column, too! Such a smart kitty you are! Do you have any advice for an old lady like me?

Aunty Nana to 35

Dear Aunty Nana:

You sound like a lovely lady, old or not, and if I were there with you I would cuddle up on your lap and purr to show you how nice I think you are!

It is shameful that many of our country's elderly are left to live out their final years alone, so I can see why you appreciate your grand-nephew's visits and his interest in what you have to say. Judging by the fact that he wants to be a History teacher, I would say that his interest in you and all that you have lived through is quite sincere. His absence from your life up until this point should not be held against him - he would have been no older than 8 years old the last time he saw you, and may very well not have known of your existence up until a few months ago - so I would not worry about him suddenly becoming too busy to spend time with you.

I can understand your concerns about Carl's youth and for that reason, should you decide to leave your estate to him, it should be left in trust for him until he

A) Reaches a certain age (say 25)
B) Completes his education and finds employment in his field or
C) Both of the above

This plan will guarantee that Carl is old enough (and hopefully mature enough) to handle a sizable inheritance and has completed his education. When a person goes through the trouble of earning a degree and in Carl's case, two degrees - a Bachelors and a Masters, as a graduate degree is required to teach in many states - they generally are not in a hurry to completely abandon it; regardless of their financial situation.

Please keep in mind, though, that you may have many years still ahead of you to mentor Carl and encourage him in his studies, so try to put worry aside and enjoy your time together. Whether you realize it or not, mentoring is what you are doing during your weekly visits with your grand-nephew; and this is a gift that no amount of money could ever buy! Long after you have passed on, the financial cushion that you leave Carl - however small or sizable - will be appreciated; but the time you spent with him is a legacy that will mean all the more.

Snuggles, snuggles, and more snuggles to you and Spats,

P.S. Should you bequeath your estate to Carl, you need not tell him of your decision. This way, you can always change your mind should circumstances change, and there will be no hard feelings against you.

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